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1994's Little Women, starring Winona Ryder, is the perfect Christmas movie

With a stellar cast, it tells a story of joy during hardship.

Claire Danes, Trini Alvarado, Winona Ryder, and Kirsten Dunst in Little Women
Claire Danes, Trini Alvarado, Winona Ryder, and Kirsten Dunst in Little Women

Every weekend, we pick a movie you can stream that dovetails with current events. Old, new, blockbuster, arthouse: They’re all fair game. What you can count on is a weekend watch that sheds new light on the week that was. The movie of the week for December 11 through 17 is Little Women (1994), which is available to digitally rent on Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, and iTunes.

The 1994 film adaptation of Little Women opens on a very cold winter in which the fortunes of the March family are about to change, and between the weather and some pivotal scenes that take place at Christmas, I’ve always thought of it as a Christmas movie. I’m not alone, and apparently the film was so destined for this season that Sony executive Amy Pascal had trouble getting it made till she pitched it as holiday fare. (Pascal, no longer an executive at Sony, was nonetheless slated to produce another Little Women adaptation as of last year.)

The movie’s cast is stacked with talent: Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder (who was just nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in Stranger Things), Claire Danes, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz, Gabriel Byrne, and a young Kirsten Dunst. It was ultimately nominated for three Oscars. And to me, a young writer growing up in New England, it felt like a movie to which a girl could aspire.

The score sounds like Christmas music, too — it’s composed by Thomas Newman, who favors strings, bells, oboes, and some joyful melodic patterns. There’s a hum of happiness to Newman’s soundtrack that reminds me of the season, a buoyancy that portends a new year, new surprises, new life.

Winona Ryder, Trini Alvarado, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, and Claire Danes in Little Women
Winona Ryder, Trini Alvarado, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, and Claire Danes in Little Women.

Mostly, though, revisiting Little Women is a reminder that the March family actually never had very much, and they were living in trying times: The Civil War is still taking place when the story begins, Mr. March is away with the military, and money and rations are tight. Meg is embarrassed about her clothing, Amy doesn’t have the faddish pickled limes that her peers trade and eat at school, and things are actually quite difficult.

Yet that’s never what people remember from Little Women. What we remember are the strongly written women, all very different, and how they find a way to be creative and interesting and very much unique even when the going is tough. And then they give to those who have less than themselves, and they’re grateful.

So maybe Little Women is the perfect holiday movie — and its soundtrack, a great accompaniment to cold winter nights. Here’s to being grateful for what we already have.

Watch the trailer for Little Women: